The U.S. Justice Department says the indictments it handed down Wednesday against soccer officials and sports-marketing executives are just the beginning of its efforts to root out corruption in the sport. A comprehensive investigation might find that the sport’s structure itself makes soccer vulnerable to corruption. FIFA disproportionately favors its smaller states, leaving the most corruptible members with outsize control over the organization.
On July 4, 1988, at a hotel in a suburb of Zurich, the executive committee of soccer’s governing body, FIFA, awarded the right to host the World Cup to the United States. The country was a fútbol backwater. Its last pro league—the one that had imported Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and other aging international stars—had folded four years earlier. Its men’s national team hadn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1950; stocked with collegians, it was on the cusp of being eliminated from regional qualifying for the 1990 tournament. Its women’s national team, hastily assembled three years earlier, had played just a handful of games.
This morning, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed a 47-charge induction against executives from soccer’s global governing body. Here’s what it’s all about.